July 15, 2012

Israelis try to extinguish flames from a protester who set himself on fire during a demonstration in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on July 14, 2012 to mark the first anniversary of last summer's social justice demonstrations that swept the country to protest the spiralling cost of living (AFP Photo/Ben Kelmer). The video contains scenes some viewers might find disturbing.

Thousands held protests to mark the anniversary of last year's tent city rallies against social injustice throughout Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv, where one man covered his body with gasoline, then lit himself on fire. People in the crowds put the flames out before rescue workers arrived, but he still said to be in serious condition.

The man left a note at the scene that read:

"The state of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless," it says according to the Haaretz newspaper. “Two Housing and Construction Ministry committees rejected me, even though I had a stroke.”

He also says that he blames "the state of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, for the humiliation that the weakened citizens go through every day, taking from the poor and giving to the rich."

The rallies were organized by social activist Dafni Leef. That rally culminated in a large demonstration outside government offices on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.

"We want a fair society,” Leef was quoted by Haaretz as saying. “Today we are also celebrating. Suddenly, when people take to the streets they understand that they have power and that they are right."

In another area of Tel Aviv, an event called "The Million Man March" was held, and in other cities:

Some 500 Jews and Arabs took part in another rally in Haifa, calling on the Israeli government to do more for social justice and spend less on the military. Slogans included “Money for the neighborhoods, not for the settlements” and “Money for welfare, not for wars.”

Around 200 protesters took part in a similar event in Jerusalem, while some 300 activists rallied in Be’er Sheva.

Tens of thousands pitched tents and joined in the protest against the rising cost of living, and demanded a return to the welfare state. The movement peaked in September when nearly half a million people took to the streets in one night. When the government promised to give in on some of the protesters demands, interest waned and finally police moved in during October to dismantle the tent city.

Leef and other activists tried to re-establish the tent city just last month, and were stopped by the police, and she was arrested during a scuffle with officers as she layed on the ground. The following night thousands returned to the streets protesting police brutality and social injustice. That rally turned violent as police attacked protesters, and protesters smashed windows and blocked highways.


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